By Allyson Dix, Managing Editor/Barren County Progress
Local business owner Tyler Duke moved to the area over a decade ago and opportunities began to open for him that ultimately landed him in a position to be able to give back to his community, which is right here in Barren County.
Growing up in the southern part of Alabama around Gulf Shores, Tyler shared that while he wasn’t considered poor but the cost of living there put his family in a position of not being able to enjoy some of the finer things in life.
“I spent a lot of my childhood living in a nice area but not necessarily financially set for the better things in life that would come with living like that,” Tyler said. He portrays a sense of humbleness regarding his childhood but his perspective on things as an adult helps inspire him to give to those in need.
Tyler is the owner of Up in Smoke in Glasgow and Smokey Joe’s in Cave City.
Up in Smoke is located right off the downtown square in Glasgow at 102 Columbia Avenue and recently Tyler installed a blessing box outside his shop in the parking lot for anyone who needs it, which is just one of the ways he gives back to the Glasgow community.
Tyler’s perspective took a turn after watching individuals travel along the streets nearby his shop time and time again.
“Up and down this street is probably one of the most impoverished parts of town so I just see it constantly all day long – people walking with their belongings on their back or pushing a shopping cart with everything they own in it.”
Tyler said he thought to himself, “What can I do to try to make it a little easier on these people?”
He sought out help on social media to find someone to build the blessing box, an item that houses non-perishable foods and hygiene products for anyone in need and is
also available to restock for others at any time. A former teacher of Tyler’s connected him with the wood shop of the Barren County Alternative School, College Street Campus.
Students in the wood shop constructed the box for Tyler and ultimately, it comes full circle for Tyler as he was a former student of College Street Campus as well, a place he proudly recalls of his time there.
“I got sent there for some lack of attendance issues and whatnot,” Tyler said, “You have to stay there for a minimum of a few months with the option of returning to the high school.”
Tyler said he chose to stay and finish out his academics for the next two years and is a graduate of the campus himself. “It kind of hit home for me when I got that opportunity to have them help build that blessing box for me,” he said.
For the box, he said it is utilized more often than expected and he had hoped it would provide to others as a closer resource for people in the area than others that are sprinkled farther across town.
“It’s kind of saddening sometimes because I see a lot of people try to utilize it when there’s not much in there and it really is a bigger problem here that a lot of people realize.”
Aside from the blessing box, he participates and donates in a variety of other ways. From serving and delivering meals on Thanksgiving Day to helping the local Barren River Animal Welfare Association and supporting other local businesses by selling homemade items in his shops, Tyler said he tries to help give back as much as possible.
As for the Thanksgiving meals, Tyler said after moving to Glasgow with his parents, he ended up staying even after they moved away so spending Thanksgiving in this way has been such an enlightening thing. He encourages others to also do the same as it is very rewarding and help is always needed.
“I’ve been in service here in Glasgow a little over ten years and Cave City is a new adventure for me for around 5 months now,” Tyler shared. He shared that at times he has faced some challenges with owning businesses geared towards smoking items but over time, those have become more accepted over the last few years.
Despite this having held him back some over the years, he said he is grateful that once he built himself up to be financially able to give back to others, he took advantage of that and looks for ways to help others and support positive messages.
Tyler has also taken an interest in playing a role in beautifying the historic downtown areas of both Glasgow and Cave City. Both of the buildings that house his shops are located in the historic downtown parts of the cities. He has renovated or currently working to renovate and improve the betterment of historic downtown by investing in old, dilapidated structures and turning them into something he is proud of. He hopes to continue being a part of the efforts for beautifying the community.
“Tyler is always giving back to the community and he gives to numerous causes in Barren County,” said Sophie Wood Bulle, owner of Green St. Gifts, “Most recently, he was a Top Dog contributor to the Paw Ball for BRAWA.”
Sophie nominated Tyler for Hometown Hero and upon learning he was selected, Tyler said he was surprised and grateful to have been considered and recognized for trying to do good things in Glasgow-Barren County.
On behalf of Jobe Publishing, Inc., the Barren County Progress is honored to recognize Tyler Duke as July’s Hometown Hero for his dedication to both Cave City and Glasgow communities and his compassion towards individuals and other small businesses in the community.